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Microsoft Rolls Out Role-Based Certifications in 2019

Last year, Microsoft announced a whopper of a change to its certifications. Until about November, you could browse Microsoft exams and find exactly what you’d expect — a list of technologies, certifications, and what you should know about them.

But with the release of role-based certifications, Microsoft shifts the focus from product knowledge to a skills-based approach based on specific job roles.

Microsoft’s Taking the Career Development Approach

With role-based certifications, Microsoft finally acknowledges the thing IT pros have been saying for years. There’s a disconnect between the knowledge required to earn a certification and the knowledge required to perform job tasks. Microsoft not only acknowledges that fact but also attempts to fix it.

They announced new role-based certifications as a better way to prepare learners for careers, shifting the focus from technologies to the skills needed for specific job roles.

The first role-based certifications to go live will be Azure job roles: Azure Developer, Azure Administrator, and Azure Solutions Architect.

Below are the associated role-based certifications and exams:

 

Role-based Certification

Exams Required

Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment*
AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security*
AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security
Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate AZ-203: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure
Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies BETA
AZ-301: Microsoft Azure Architect Design BETA

*UPDATE: 3/20/2019: Microsoft announced that it’s retiring the AZ-100 and AZ-101 exams on May 1, 2019. At that point, you’ll only need to pass one exam, AZ-103, to earn Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification. Here’s the full post about this change.

Microsoft also released these standalone transition exams (and we should be seeing Azure and Office 365 role-based certifications to accompany them soon):

 

Standalone Exams

AZ-400: Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions BETA
AZ-900: Azure Fundamentals
MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services BETA
MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security BETA
MS-900: Microsoft 365 Fundamentals

Microsoft is retiring a bunch of Azure, O365 exams

In conjunction with the new exams, Microsoft announced the retirement of several exams and certifications:

 

Exams

Retirement Date

70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions December 31, 2018
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions December 31, 2018
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions December 31, 2018
70-346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements March 31, 2019
70-347: Enabling Office 365 Services March 31, 2019
70-695: Deploying Windows Desktops and Enterprise Applications March 31, 2019
70-697: Configuring Windows Devices March 31, 2019
70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10 March 31, 2019
AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment* May 1, 2019
AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security* May 1, 2019

*UPDATE: 3/20/2019: Microsoft announced that it’s retiring the AZ-100 and AZ-101 exams on May 1, 2019. At that point, you’ll only need to pass one exam, AZ-103, to earn Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification. Here’s the full post about this change.

Certifications

Retirement Date

MCSA: Cloud Platform December 31, 2018
MCSA: Linux on Azure December 31, 2018
MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure December 31, 2018
MCSA: Office 365 March 31, 2019
MCSA: Windows 10 March 31, 2019
MCSE: Mobility March 31, 2019

If you’re preparing for any of the above exams, don’t panic. You have a couple of options:

  1. Keep training and take the exam prior to the retirement date.
  2. Stop training for the retiring exam and begin preparing for its replacement exams.

The following chart shows the soon-to-be-retired exams and the exams Microsoft is replacing them with:

 

Exams

Replacements

70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions AZ-203: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment
AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies
AZ-301: Microsoft Azure Architect Design
70-346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
70-347: Enabling Office 365 Services MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
70-695: Deploying Windows Desktops and Enterprise Applications No replacement announced
70-697: Configuring Windows Devices No replacement announced
70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10 No replacement announced
AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment* AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator
AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security* AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator

*UPDATE: 3/20/2019: Microsoft announced that it’s retiring the AZ-100 and AZ-101 exams on May 1, 2019. At that point, you’ll only need to pass one exam, AZ-103, to earn Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification. Here’s the full post about this change.

If you’re part way through earning a retiring MCSA (meaning you’ve passed at least one associated exam), you can do the following:

  1. Continue preparing for the original remaining exams. Pass them prior to the listed retirement dates to earn certification.
  2. Stop preparing for the original exams and begin preparing for the transition exams (see below). Passing a transition exam will earn you a role-based certification.

If you’re preparing for your MCSE, you have until the retirement date to pass all associated exams. Pass them prior to the listed retirement dates to earn certification.

Transition Exams

If you’ve already passed an exam that’s been or will be replaced by a role-based certification, there’s good news. Microsoft released transition exams that cover changes and new content that wasn’t on the original exam.

Transition exams exclude everything covered on the original exams. Instead, they focus on skills not assessed enough on the original exams.

The following transition exams can be taken to earn Microsoft certification:

UPDATE: 3/20/2019: Microsoft announced that it’s retiring the AZ-100 and AZ-101 exams on May 1, 2019. At that point, you’ll only need to pass one exam, AZ-103, to earn Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification.

If You Passed These Exams…

…Take These Exams…

…To Earn These Certifications

70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions AZ-203: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions AZ-102: Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Transition Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions AZ-302: Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Certification Transition Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Why Does All This Matter?

If you browse any job board, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a job description that doesn’t mention certification. When it comes to getting a job or meeting standards within an organization, certifications have become a staple.

But as mainstream as certifications are, no certification can completely prepare you for a career. Though you gain valuable and transferable skills while preparing for certifications, IT certifications show your knowledge of a product — not your competence as an employee. But employers act as if they do.

For better or worse, employers have outsourced their employees’ career progression to IT vendors. In some views, it’s problematic seeking generic outside counsel to determine what their employees should know. It’d be like asking a manager at Macy’s what your wife wants for her birthday rather than her.

In this analogy, that manager is a competent employee, knowing all the daily doorbuster deals, but they don’t know your wife. The gift would be generic to all women who fit your wife’s demographic. And that’s exactly what you get with a certification: a generic knowledge of a product that’s unspecific to your job needs.

We’ve allowed IT vendors (with the use of certifications) to define what employees should know instead of taking the initiative to do it ourselves. And this has led to a gap between the knowledge gained from certification preparation and the knowledge required to perform job tasks.

Microsoft acknowledged this gap, did some research and announced their role-based certifications. These certifications won’t just show product knowledge; they’ll show employers and peers you’re prepared for a career.

What’s Next?

Microsoft announced that additional role-based certifications will be released. This marks one of the first steps in the IT certification industry toward career-based knowledge.

This announcement from one of the world’s largest IT vendors could be the kindling needed to blaze a new certification trail — one no longer focused on generic overviews of technologies but on the skills and tasks needed by most professionals.

The industry isn’t likely to leave product and technology-based knowledge in the dust. But a shift in focus—one specific to job roles and tasks—can lead to more employees gaining the competence they need to excel. And, like Ben Parker used to say, “With great specificity in job training comes greater work performance.” Okay, he didn’t say that, but he would have if he were an IT professional… and real.

 

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